Monday, November 29, 2010


Before I had children, I had a picture in my mind of what kind of mother I wanted to be. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to teach my children, and how I wanted the atmosphere of our home to feel. I knew that I wanted to raise them to be good Catholics, to be kind, to know that they were loved, and to feel that their home was a refuge. There were all kinds of little vignettes in my head about different situations, both extraordinary and mundane, that I would experience with them or provide for them. One of these was a little snippet in my imagination of my kids coming home from school to milk and hot chocolate chip cookies, fresh from the oven, just waiting on the table. Something about a mom who takes the time to make a treat, warm, fragrant, gooey & sweet, called to me.

When Adam was a toddler, we baked together. As each child followed, they learned to pull up a chair to the counter, to cream butter and sugar, to dump in the chips. My kids love to bake, especially cookies. Most especially, they love to bake chocolate chip cookies. It's a tradition that grew on its own, considering that my kids have never gotten off the school bus, plopped down a book bag, and sighed about their long day of school.

The last few weeks have seen all of us come down with a bad case of negativity. We've all been short with each other, not used the kind words that we know are there. Tonight, I had a paper to write for my psychology class. Instead of writing a paper, I decided to contribute to the mental health of everyone and whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies.

It was a good decision. Something about stirring the sugars and vanilla, measuring the flour, breaking the eggs, something there is therapeutic. CCCs are good for the soul. (At least mine are, because frankly, mine are the best I've ever tasted.) (No, you can't have the recipe. Half the fun is figuring out what works!)

And it worked. Like magic, everyone loosened up. We all stopped taking everything so. darn. seriously. Everyone liked each other again. When Adam yelled, "TASTE TEST!" and ran for the spoons, Gracie and the other boys cheered. Smiles all around. We each had a spoonful of batter. We licked our spoons clean. And I put a batch in the oven, anticipating the homey fragrance that would seal the deal, that would make the good mood stick, that would put us back on track.

Well, hello, Beautiful.

And that is the sight of happy kids. Never underestimate the power of chocolate to make everything better.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Lovely Bones

If you're a vegetarian, you'll want to skip this post.

It was a good Thanksgiving. As one of my Facebook friends said, the dessert to main dish ratio was just right. (We had 8 desserts for 15 people.)

Yes, I stocked up on turkeys when they were on sale for 57 cents a pound. Not as good as last year's 44 cents a pound, but I'll take it.

Now that the feast is over, I have picked the bones clean. Literally. After the feast was done yesterday afternoon, I took the turkey carcass (isn't that just a lovely word, carcass? "What are you eating, dear?" "Carcass! It's delicious!") and stuffed half of it into the crock pot with some unpeeled carrots, unpeeled but halved onions, and some celery stalks. It made a lovely broth that will flavor rice and help with casseroles in the coming month. This morning, I took the second half of the carcass (again! That word!) and repeated yesterday's crock pot adventure. For tonight's dinner, we'll have turkey noodle soup, made from the bone broth/stock I made today. YUMMO!

For those of you who are stock-illiterate, let me break down the process:
1. Strip every piece of usable meat from the bones of your leftover turkey.
2. Put said bones in a big stockpot or crock pot, set on low. (If you had a big turkey like we did, you may have to do 2 batches.)
3. Wash some celery and carrots, chop 'em in halves or thirds, and throw them in. Chop a couple of smallish or just one large-ish onion in half, throw it in. (Don't worry about peeling. Really.) Pour in water to cover.
4. Let simmer for a few hours. At least 3, but 6 is better.
5. Put a nice big bowl in your sink with a sieve (or colander lined with cheesecloth) on top. Pour the pot's contents into the bowl, letting the sieve filter out all the solids.
6. Allow your stock to cool. Taste it - you'll need salt! Don't be shy. Like Ina Garten says, "The difference between dishwater and good stock is salt!"
7. Cover and refrigerate. In a few hours (or the next morning) skim off the fat. Some people like to cook with turkey fat. I sometimes give it to the dog on her food. It's too greasy for me, and I'm not afraid of fat!
8. Using a ladle, portion the broth into Ball canning jars and store it in the freezer, with the date on the lid. (I put my jars in the sink while I ladle. Less mess.) Leave an inch/an inch and a half headspace to account for expansion during freezing.

Simple & frugal. All those trace minerals from the turkey bones are in the broth. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

At the Children's Museum:

Friday, November 12, 2010

What they don't get

Please forgive my lack of pictures for this post. I'm writing on the PC laptop, and my Mac has the photo library.

This evening, I had a fun phone call with my mother-in-law. Our conversations are usually peppered with funny jokes and sarcastic comments, stories about the kids and embarrassing things that have happened to us during the week. We share news and stories, laughs and acerbic observations. During the conversation, she shared the comments that several people made to her when she told them that we were expecting, you know, again. I have a pretty thick skin when it comes to peoples' opinions about my life. More often than not, I roll my eyes and mentally sigh about what people fail to grasp about my motives and thought processes. Homeschooling, extending breastfeeding, cosleeping, keeping my boys intact, living a thrifty life, and not using artificial birth control. Those things are puzzling to so many people. When they find out any of those things, I often get, "Oh! I could never do that!" Okay, fine. You're missing out, but do what you want.

But the comments that always leave me scratching my head are the ones about having children. They just don't make sense to me. I really, really don't get what people are getting at.

"They're doing that AGAIN?"

"They're having ANOTHER one?"

"This is FIVE kids? How do they afford that?"

"I just couldn't do it. I don't have the patience."

"Oh, I was so glad to stop breastfeeding... stop carrying a diaper bag... go on a real vacation... send my kids to school... couldn't wait for them to move out..."

Really? I don't get it. How do any of those things - any of those things - compare with having another person in your family? How? Yes, pregnancy is hard. I don't like being pregnant. I don't like the physical limitations it puts on me. I'm vain, embarrassingly so, about my weight. I hate being uncomfortable. But it's what? 10 months long? (Yes, 4 weeks per month makes a 40 week pregnancy = 10 months. Don't get me started on THAT.) Ten short months, compared to a lifetime of having another person in your family. I. Don't. Get. It.

Yes, kids can be expensive. But really and truly, kids don't require much. Parents who indulge every whim do their children a disservice - wanting is a good thing. (I'm not talking about necessities here. Food, clothes, shelter, a stable environment, love - those are needs.) Wanting teaches our kids patience (and who couldn't use more of that?) That's a good thing. My kids have wants, plenty of them. Their needs are met and then some, and many of their wants, too. But who could compare spoiling your child with things to having a brother or sister? How many adults say, "Gosh, I wish my parents wouldn't have had my sister Sally. Then I would have been able to have a Barbie Dream House at Christmas." Huh?

And let's not forget the adult wants: vacations, sending our other kids to college (yes, that's a want), having adult cars and adult houses (you know - Southern Living Catalog, no sign that anyone lives there!), sleeping in, whole days off - all that stuff. But you know what?

It's not about ME, but about US. It's not about this laundry list of things that might be nice to have. It's about love. Pure and simple. How can I look at any one of my children and think, "Gosh, if I didn't have him, we would have been able to take everyone on vacation to Disney last Christmas." Because isn't that the thought process we're following here? That if we have more money and more time to ourselves, we will somehow fill up this well inside ourselves, and be perpetually happy?

As if happiness can be bought with money.
As if money could compare with love.

These children are my investment. They are my happiness. I can't imagine my life without any one of them. When Hubby & I were discerning if it was time to expand our family again (oh, there's a Catholic rabbit trail about being open to life...) the thought that brought us both up short was, "Think about the children we have. Wouldn't you do anything, anything, to have that person in your life?" How can I say no to that? How can I close that door, and actually mean that I would rather have a bigger house/smaller car/more presents at Christmas/nicer vacation/smaller purse instead of a child? How do we come to that place? Tell me, because it's a place I never want to see!

Looking at my children when they sleep, little rosebud lips and flushed cheeks; watching them play together and look out for one another; seeing silly faces at the breakfast table; listening to whispered conversations between brothers after lights out; smelling the sweet smell of a new baby; being squished by bodies on the couch when we read books; how can I give up any of that for a king's ransom in new clothes, pretty shoes and purses, European vacations, afternoons sipping lattes and reading novels?

We cannot fulfill ourselves with things, spending time and money on ourselves, pursuing our own selfish whims constantly. It is only through loving others that we find happiness. I am selfish in this: I want to fill my cup to the brim. I want as much love as I can squeeze into this family. If the cost is mountains of laundry and diapers and sippy cups and Legos, years of potty training and diaper bags, the stretching of my patience and the doubting of my sanity - bring it on! What a small pittance to pay for such a life of love.

My children love the expectation of a new baby. They understand that this is a gift. There is never an impatient, "Again, Mom?" It's always a very wide-eyed, "Really? Cool!" I am so very, very lucky, so incredibly blessed. Thank You, God, for giving me a husband who understands this wonderful mess of children. Thank You, God, for making me able to have children. Thank You so much for sticky faces and dirty socks and gum in my dryer and dishes to wash. Thank You for letting me be a mother, again!